Pakistan demands Germany prosecute consulate attackers  

Islamabad — Pakistan has condemned Germany’s “failure” to safeguard its consulate in Frankfurt from being stormed and vandalized Saturday by dozens of protesters reportedly carrying Afghanistan’s national flag. In a Sunday statement issued in Islamabad, the foreign ministry, without naming any specific nationality, described the assailants as “a gang of extremists” and decried the security breach of the consular mission, saying it endangered the lives of its staff. “We are conveying our strong protest to the German government,” the ministry said. It urged Germany to take “immediate measures to fulfill its responsibility” under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to ensure the security of the Pakistani diplomatic missions and staff in the country. Social media video from Saturday’s incident shows scores of people holding the tricolor Afghan national flag and jumping the fence to get into the consulate building in Frankfurt, with one of them taking down Pakistan’s flag. The protesters were reportedly shouting abuses and pelted the diplomatic facility with stones. Diplomatic sources and witnesses in the German city confirmed the authenticity of the video to VOA, but it was not immediately known what the crowd was protesting.   Pakistani official sources told VOA that the attack was “a serious security lapse on the part of the German side.” They said German authorities did not inform the consulate staff about the upcoming protest or increase security for the diplomatic facility as per the “standard operating procedures.”  There was no immediate reaction from the German government to the attack and its denunciation by Pakistan. Taliban authorities in Afghanistan did not comment on the incident either. “We also urge the German authorities to take immediate measures to arrest and prosecute those involved in yesterday’s incident and hold to account those responsible for the lapses in security,” the Pakistani statement said. Earlier, the Pakistani Embassy in Berlin also denounced the consulate attack as a “reprehensible vandalizing act.” It wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that the diplomatic mission was in contact with the German authorities “to ensure such a situation doesn’t arise again and the miscreants face legal consequences.” The embassy appealed to Pakistanis in Germany to remain patient and calm in the aftermath of the episode. German authorities have increasingly linked Afghan asylum-seekers in the country to criminal activities and announced last month they are considering resuming deportations of criminals to Afghanistan. The announcement by German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser … “Pakistan demands Germany prosecute consulate attackers  “

Outrage after Italy reporter attacked at neo-fascist event 

Rome — Italian politicians including Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed outrage Sunday after a journalist was beaten up in the northern city of Turin by suspected neo-fascists.  On Saturday night, the reporter for La Stampa daily came upon by chance a party being held by the neo-fascist fringe group CasaPound, involving smoke bombs and fireworks. He started filming with his phone.  According to his footage and an account by the newspaper, a group of men came up to him and asked, “Are you one of us?” Then they attacked him, causing him to require hospital treatment.  Meloni, the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, offered her solidarity with the journalist, Andrea Joly, over the “unacceptable attack.”   It was “an act of violence that I strongly condemn and for which I hope those responsible will be identified as quickly as possible,” she said in a statement.  Elly Schlein, leader of the center-left opposition Democratic Party, also offered her solidarity with Joly and condemned a “climate of impunity.”  “What else are we waiting for before neo-fascist organizations are dissolved, as the constitution says?” she asked.  The attack was one of two incidents of random violence that made headlines this weekend in Italy, after a shocking video emerged of two gay men being beaten up by three men and a woman in Rome.  That attack also drew condemnation from across the political spectrum.   Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani on Sunday deplored “too much violence and intolerance in Italy against those who do not think like you,” writing on X, formerly Twitter, that he “strongly condemned any violence.” …

Austrian police detain 53 protesters trying to disrupt march by far-right extremists

Berlin, Germany — Police said Sunday that they detained more than 50 people as they clashed with protesters trying to disrupt a march by hundreds of right-wing extremists in the Austrian capital. The demonstrations Saturday came as Austria’s political parties gear up for September parliamentary elections that are expected to see the far-right make significant gains. Anti-fascist groups and left-leaning political parties had called for protests against a demonstration and march by identitarian and other hard-right activists, the Austrian Press Agency reported. Social media posts showed marchers in downtown Vienna with a banner calling for “remigration,” a term used to advocate for the mass return of migrants to their countries of origin. Hundreds of officers were deployed to keep apart the opposing groups — each several hundred strong. Forty-three people were temporarily detained for refusing to end a sit-down protest blocking the march, APA reported, citing city police. A further 10 were detained after some masked protesters threw rocks and bottles. Three officers were injured, and the windows of a patrol car smashed, police said. Interior Minister Gehard Karner, a conservative, said police would prosecute offenses, including during demonstrations, “whether they are committed by left- or right-wing extremists or other enemies of democracy.” Austria goes to the polls on Sept. 29 for elections expected to confirm a recent pan-European trend by swinging toward the political right. The far-right Freedom Party narrowly beat the conservative People’s Party in recent elections to the European Parliament. Politicians from left-leaning parties including the Greens — the conservatives’ current coalition partner — and the opposition Social Democrats warn that a government that includes the Freedom Party would embolden right-wing radicals. “They want nothing other than the end of our pluralistic democratic society,” said Eva Blimlinger, a spokesperson for the Greens.  …

Mayor: Barcelona will raise tourist tax for cruise passengers

Madrid — Barcelona will raise the tourist tax for cruise passengers visiting the city for less than 12 hours, the mayor said in an interview published on Sunday. Jaume Collboni said the current tourist tax for stopover cruise passengers was 7 euros ($7.61) per day. He did not say by how much the tax would be increased. “We are going to propose.. substantially increasing the tax for stopover cruise passengers,” he told El Pais newspaper. “In the case of stopover cruise passengers (less than 12 hours) there is intensive use of public space without any benefit for the city and a feeling of occupation and saturation. We want to have tourism that is respectful of the destination.” He said tourists, not local tax payers, should pay for local projects like air-conditioning schools. The proposal will have to be agreed with the Catalan regional government, Collboni said. In recent weeks, anti-tourism activists have staged protests in popular holiday destinations across Spain, such as Palma de Mallorca, Malaga and the Canary Islands, saying visitors drive up housing costs and lead to residents being unable to afford to live in city centers.  Another protest is planned in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest Balearic Island on Sunday evening. Collboni announced last month that the city will bar apartment rentals to tourists by 2028, an unexpectedly drastic move as it seeks to rein in soaring housing costs and make the city liveable for residents.   …

Pope hopes truce on wars can come from Paris Olympics 

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said on Sunday he hoped the Paris Olympics would be an occasion for truces in the world’s conflicts, urging athletes to be messengers of peace and models for young people. The games start on July 26 with an opening ceremony on the River Seine that will feature about 10,500 athletes and over 100 heads of state and government. During his weekly address to the crowds in St Peter’s Square, the pope said he hoped that “according to the ancient tradition, the Olympics will be an opportunity to establish a truce in wars, by demonstrating a sincere desire for peace.” He mentioned the conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza, Myanmar and other countries, saying “let us not forget war is a defeat.” Last month the final statement of a Group of Seven (G7) leaders’ meeting held in Italy included a unanimous call for a truce in global conflicts during the Olympic Games. …

Zelenskyy calls for long-range weapons after drone attack on Kyiv

KYIV — Ukraine needs long-range weapons to protect its cities and troops on the frontline from Russian bombs and drones, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday after a massive overnight drone and missile attack. Russia launched its fifth drone attack on Kyiv in two weeks overnight, with Ukraine’s air defense systems destroying all the air weapons before they reached the capital, Ukraine’s military said. Ukraine’s air force said on Telegram that its air defense systems destroyed 35 of the 39 drones and two cruise missiles that Russia had launched overnight. The weapons, the air force said, targeted 10 of Ukraine’s regions. It was not immediately clear how many drones were launched at Kyiv. There were no casualties and no significant damage reported, Serhiy Popko, head of the Ukrainian capital’s military administration, said on the Telegram. “During last night alone, the Russian army used almost 40 ‘Shaheds’ against Ukraine. Importantly, most of them were shot down by our defenders of the sky,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram, referring to the drones. He said it was necessary to destroy Russian bombers at Russian air bases to protect Ukraine from air raids. “Our sufficient long-range capabilities should be a fair response to Russian terror. Everyone who supports us in this supports the defence against terror,” Zelenskyy said. Zelenskyy renewed his call for Western allies to allow long-range strikes on Russia on Friday in London, saying Britain should try to convince its partners to remove the limits on their use. NATO members have taken different approaches to how Ukraine can use weapons they donate. Some have made clear Kyiv can use them to strike targets inside Russia while the United States has taken a narrower approach, allowing its weapons to be used only just inside Russia’s border against targets supporting Russian military operations in Ukraine. Russia launched three Iskander ballistic missiles, Ukraine’s air force said, without saying what happened to them. The military administration of the Sumy region in Ukraine’s northeast bordering Russia said on Telegram that a Russian missile damaged critical infrastructure in the Shostkynskyi district of the region. The administration did not provide detail on what infrastructure was hit. There was no immediate comment from Russia about the attacks. Moscow says it does not attack civilian targets in Ukraine. “These systematic attacks … with drones, once again prove that the invader is actively looking for an opportunity to strike Kyiv,” Popko said. “They’re … “Zelenskyy calls for long-range weapons after drone attack on Kyiv”

With AI, jets and police, Paris is securing Olympics — and worrying critics

paris — A year ago, the head of the Paris Olympics boldly declared that France’s capital would be ” the safest place in the world ” when the Games open this Friday. Tony Estanguet’s confident forecast looks less far-fetched now with squadrons of police patrolling Paris’ streets, fighter jets and soldiers primed to scramble, and imposing metal-fence security barriers erected like an iron curtain on both sides of the River Seine that will star in the opening show. France’s vast police and military operation is in large part because the July 26-August 11 Games face unprecedented security challenges. The city has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks, and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. Rather than build an Olympic park with venues grouped together outside of the city center, like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or London in 2012, Paris has chosen to host many of the events in the heart of the bustling capital of 2 million inhabitants, with others dotted around suburbs that house millions more. Putting temporary sports arenas in public spaces and the unprecedented choice to stage a river-borne opening ceremony stretching for kilometers along the Seine, makes safeguarding them more complex. Olympic organizers also have cyberattack concerns, while rights campaigners and Games critics are worried about Paris’ use of AI-equipped surveillance technology and the broad scope and scale of Olympic security. Paris, in short, has a lot riding on keeping 10,500 athletes and millions of visitors safe. Here’s how it aims to do it. The security operation, by the numbers A Games-time force of up to 45,000 police and gendarmes is also backed up by a 10,000-strong contingent of soldiers that has set up the largest military camp in Paris since World War II, from which soldiers should be able to reach any of the city’s Olympic venues within 30 minutes. Armed military patrols aboard vehicles and on foot have become common in crowded places in France since gunmen and suicide bombers acting in the names of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group repeatedly struck Paris in 2015. They don’t have police powers of arrest but can tackle attackers and restrain them until police arrive. For visitors from countries where armed street patrols aren’t the norm, the sight of soldiers with assault rifles might be jarring, just as it was initially for people in France. “At the beginning, it was very … “With AI, jets and police, Paris is securing Olympics — and worrying critics”

Belarus in talks with Berlin about German man on death row

Warsaw, Poland — Belarus and Germany are holding “consultations” over the fate of a German man reportedly sentenced to death by a court in Minsk last month, Belarus’s foreign ministry said Saturday.  Rico Krieger, 30, was convicted under six articles of Belarus’s criminal code including “terrorism” and “mercenary activity” at a secretive trial held at the end of June, according to Belarusian rights group Viasna.  “Taking into account a request from the German Foreign Ministry, Belarus has proposed concrete solutions on the available options for developing the situation,” Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anatoly Glaz said.  “The foreign ministries of the two countries are holding consultations on this topic,” he added.  Few details have been published about the case.  Part of the court proceedings were held behind closed doors, the exact allegations against the man were not immediately clear and there has been little information in Belarusian state media about the trial.  According to a LinkedIn profile that Viasna said belonged to Krieger, he worked as a medic for the German Red Cross and had previously been employed as an armed security officer for the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.  A source at the German Foreign Ministry told AFP on Friday that it and the embassy in Minsk were “providing the person in question with consular services and are making intensive representations to the Belarusian authorities on his behalf.”  The source added that “the death penalty is a cruel and inhuman form of punishment that Germany rejects under all circumstances.”  Belarus is reported to have executed as many as 400 people since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, according to Amnesty International.   But executions of foreign citizens are rare.   The country is run as an authoritarian regime by long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has detained thousands of dissidents and civic activists who oppose him.  …

Azerbaijan’s president vows to help French territories secure independence

SHUSHA, Azerbaijan — Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pledged Saturday to help France’s overseas territories secure independence, the latest in a series of incidents pitting his ex-Soviet state against Paris over long-running conflicts in the Caucasus region.  Aliyev accuses France of interfering in its affairs over its contacts with Armenia, against which it has waged two wars in 30 years linked to disputes over Baku’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.  In recent months, Azerbaijani leaders have focused on France’s South Pacific territory of New Caledonia, gripped by weeks of violence over the objections of Indigenous Kanak activists to a contentious electoral reform.  Aliyev made his latest comments at a media forum days before the opening of the Olympic Games in Paris and just after the staging in Baku of a congress bringing together pro-independence groups from New Caledonia and other French territories.  “We will support you until you are free,” Aliyev told the forum, citing French territories that he said were still subject to colonialism.  “Some countries are still suffering from this. The Comoros islands, Mayotte are still under colonial rule. It has been our duty to help these countries liberate themselves from this revolting remnant from the past.”  Accusations of meddling Earlier this week, an “initiative group” staged a congress in Baku attended by pro-independence groups from New Caledonia and other French territories, including Corsica and Caribbean and Pacific islands.  French media accounts of the meeting said participants sharply criticized French authorities and an Azerbaijani delegation was invited to visit New Caledonia.  France accused Azerbaijan in May of meddling and abetting unrest in New Caledonia by flooding social media with what it said were misleading photos and videos targeting French police.  Azerbaijan has denied the allegations.  Azerbaijani authorities accuse France of bias in favor of Armenia in efforts to achieve a peace treaty to end three decades of conflict and in signing defense contracts with authorities in Yerevan. Azerbaijan expelled two French diplomats last December.  …

Part of Cyprus mourns, the other rejoices 50 years after split

Nicosia, Cyprus — Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever. The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues. Their differences were laid bare Saturday, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they called a “peace operation.” “The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told cheering crowds who gathered in north Nicosia.”We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said, adding that Greek and Greek Cypriot calls to reunite Cyprus under a federal umbrella — which are prescribed in U.N. resolutions — are no longer possible. Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement. “We have one aim: a Republic of Cyprus with a single sovereignty, a single international personality, a single nationality, in a bizonal, bicommunal federation, a single state where all citizens will be Cypriots and Europeans, without a foreign occupation army, without outdated guarantees,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told a somber event in the southern parts of Nicosia in remembrance of 1974. Greece and Turkey recently agreed to discuss how to improve relations, but “the fact that we have been discussing doesn’t mean that we agree and, more importantly, that we back down,” Mitsotakis said. Remembering the dead Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force. The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decadeslong aspirations of joining the bloc. It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years. Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for … “Part of Cyprus mourns, the other rejoices 50 years after split”

Beleris returns to prison in Albania after European Parliament opening

TIRANA, Albania — A member of Albania’s ethnic Greek minority returned to prison Saturday after a five-day reprieve to attend the opening session of the European Parliament where he was elected to represent Greece’s ruling party. Fredis Beleris, who holds dual Greek-Albanian citizenship, is serving a two-year prison sentence for vote-buying in municipal elections last year in Albania. He denies the charges, and Greece has described the case against him as being politically motivated. “I am not sorry to go back to the cell,” said Beleris upon landing at Tirana International Airport. The 51-year-old politician won the European Parliament after getting a place on Greece’s governing New Democracy party ticket in last month’s European elections. He received 238,801 votes, the fourth among the seven members elected for the party. European Parliament members enjoy legal immunity from prosecution within the 27-state bloc, even for allegations relating to crimes committed prior to their election. But Albania is not an EU member yet. Beleris was arrested two days before the May 14, 2023, municipal elections in Himara, with a large ethnic Greek minority in the town on the Albanian Riviera, 220 kilometers (140 miles) southwest of the capital Tirana. He was charged with offering about 40,000 Albanian leks ($390) to buy eight votes. He won last year’s municipal election with a 19-vote lead, backed by the ethnic Greek minority party and others opposing Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s governing Socialists. But he never took office, being detained until his court conviction in March. An appeals court upheld the ruling last month, and Albanian authorities stripped Beleris of his post as mayor of Himara, where a new election will be held August 4. …

Airlines resume services after global IT crash wreaks havoc

Paris — Airlines were gradually coming back online Saturday after global carriers, banks and financial institutions were thrown into turmoil by one of the biggest IT crashes in recent years, caused by an update to an antivirus program. Passenger crowds had swelled at airports Friday to wait for news as dozens of flights were canceled and operators struggled to keep services on track, after an update to a program operating on Microsoft Windows crashed systems worldwide. Multiple U.S. airlines and airports across Asia said they were now resuming operations, with check-in services restored in Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand, and mostly back to normal in India and Indonesia and at Singapore’s Changi Airport as of Saturday afternoon. “The check-in systems have come back to normal [at Thailand’s five major airports]. There are no long queues at the airports as we experienced yesterday,” Airports of Thailand President Keerati Kitmanawat told reporters at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok. Microsoft said the issue began at 1900 GMT on Thursday, affecting Windows users running the CrowdStrike Falcon cybersecurity software. CrowdStrike said it had rolled out a fix for the problem, and the company’s boss, George Kurtz, told U.S. news channel CNBC he wanted to “personally apologize to every organization, every group and every person who has been impacted.” It also said it could take a few days to return to normal. U.S. President Joe Biden’s team was talking to CrowdStrike and those affected by the glitch “and is standing by to provide assistance as needed,” the White House said in a statement. “Our understanding is that flight operations have resumed across the country, although some congestion remains,” a senior US administration official said. Other industries Reports from the Netherlands and Britain suggested health services might have been affected by the disruption, meaning the full impact might not yet be known. Media companies were also hit, with Britain’s Sky News saying the glitch had ended its Friday morning news broadcasts, and Australia’s ABC similarly reporting major difficulties. By Saturday, services in Australia had mostly returned to normal, but Sydney Airport was still reporting flight delays. Australian authorities warned of an increase in scam and phishing attempts following the outage, including people offering to help reboot computers and asking for personal information or credit card details. Banks in Kenya and Ukraine reported issues with their digital services, while some mobile phone carriers were disrupted and customer … “Airlines resume services after global IT crash wreaks havoc”

EU’s Middle East envoy vows to push for two-state solution

Jerusalem — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stubborn opposition to a Palestinian state does not deter the European Union’s Middle East peace envoy from believing a two-state solution remains achievable. Sven Koopmans, in an interview with AFP, said with the Gaza war ongoing and Israel needing international support, Netanyahu’s government cannot indefinitely disregard European views on resolving the conflict. Netanyahu and some ministers in his right-wing government staunchly oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, which many argue has become even more urgent since the October 7 Hamas attacks sparked the devastating war. “I think that recently he was very explicit about rejecting the two-state solution,” Koopmans said. “Now, that means that he has a different point of view from much of the rest of the world.” The Dutch diplomat said one side’s rejection of “the outcome that we believe is necessary” does not mean efforts to seek a solution should cease. Last month the European Union invited Israel to discuss Gaza and human rights. Israel agreed to a meeting after July 1, when Hungary, which supports Netanyahu’s government, assumed the EU presidency. “It is important that we have that discussion,” said Koopmans. “I am sure that in such a meeting, there will be very substantive discussions about what we expect from our partner Israel. And that relates to things that we do not see at present.” ‘Relevant actor’ Koopmans said it was “completely unacceptable” for there to be thousands of aid trucks waiting at the Gaza border. The envoy also raised concerns about Israeli settler violence in the occupied West Bank, saying some attacks amounted to “genuine terrorism.” Named as special representative for the peace process in 2021, Koopmans said the European Union was one of the most energetic institutions pushing for a two-state solution. Koopmans said his work was guided by the EU’s 1980 declaration recognizing the “right to existence and to security” for Israel and “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.” The declaration called Israeli settlements on Palestinian land “a serious obstacle to the peace process.” The European bloc was only nine members then, and Koopmans acknowledged divisions within the 27 existing members on the Middle East strife. But he insisted the bloc “should not make ourselves smaller than we are.” He highlighted that the 27 countries, with a combined population of 450 million people, were Israel’s largest trading partner and the top aid donor to the … “EU’s Middle East envoy vows to push for two-state solution”

Russian missile, drone attack kill 2 and hit infrastructure across Ukraine

KYIV, UKRAINE — Russian drones and missiles struck overnight in Ukraine, killing  two civilians and hitting energy facilities and railway infrastructure across the country, officials said on Saturday.  Oleh Syniehubov, regional governor for the Kharkiv region, said Iskander missiles targeted an infrastructure facility in the small town of Barvinkove in the northeast, killing two people and injuring three more.  He gave no details about the facility, but said on the Telegram messaging app that more than 50 residential houses and administrative and commercial buildings were also damaged in the strike.  The Ukrainian air force said Russian forces launched four ballistic Iskander missiles in the overnight attack. The Ukrainian air defense failed to shoot them down.  The air defense shot down 13 of 17 Russian drones over five regions in the east, north, and center of the country, the air force said.  Ukrenergo, the national grid operator, said the drones attacked electricity distribution facilities in the central Poltava region, in the Sumy region in northeast, and in the northern Chernihiv region.  Ukrenergo imposed emergency power cuts for industrial and residential consumers in Poltava and Chernihiv regions, it said on the Telegram messaging app.  Russian forces have stepped up missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure since March, knocking out about half of the available energy generation and forcing extended blackouts for millions.  The Ukrainian Railways said the overnight attacks damaged railway infrastructure in some parts of Kharkiv region and briefly delayed some passenger trains.  …

US reassures Ukraine of American support 

washington — Some top U.S. officials have sought to publicly reassure Ukraine of continued support from Washington, arguing that backing Kyiv in its fight against Russia is in America’s best interest. The United States has provided Ukraine with almost $54 billion in military equipment and other security assistance since Russian forces invaded in February 2022, including a $225 million package earlier this month. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General C.Q. Brown on Friday called such help from the U.S. and other Western countries crucial, warning of dire consequences if that aid stopped flowing. “If collectively we stop supporting Ukraine, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wins,” Brown told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado. “What that allows, it also emboldens others,” he said. “We have credibility that’s at stake associated with this. Not just the United States, but NATO, the West. “If we just back away, that opens the door for [Chinese President] Xi Jinping and others that [have] wanted to do unprovoked aggression.” Some U.S. politicians, however, argue that the current level of support for Ukraine is unsustainable. And they have been led, in part, by the Republican vice presidential nominee, Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance. “There are a lot of bad guys all over the world, and I’m much more interested in some of the problems in East Asia right now than I am in Europe,” Vance told a major security conference in Munich earlier this year. “Can we send the level of weaponry we’ve sent for the last 18 months?” Vance asked. “We simply cannot. No matter how many checks the U.S. Congress writes, we are limited there.” The Republicans’ presidential nominee, former President Donald Trump, has also been critical at times of U.S. support for Ukraine, telling supporters during his nomination acceptance speech Thursday that the war “would never have happened if I was president.” This past May, at a town hall event sponsored by CNN, Trump said, if elected, he would end the fighting in one day. Brown, the most senior U.S. military official, was cautious about such predictions when pressed at the Aspen conference. “If he can get it done in 24 hours, that’d be great,” he said, while also rejecting arguments that the U.S. is incapable of providing Ukraine with continued military support. “We have the capability to produce,” Brown said. “We have the capacity to do it. We’ve just got to … “US reassures Ukraine of American support “

In a first since Cold War, Russia convicts American journalist in ‘sham’ trial

Russia sentenced Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich to 16 years in prison Friday in a trial widely seen as a sham. VOA’s Steve Baragona narrates this report from Liam Scott and Cristina Caicedo Smit. Cameras: Martin Bubenik, Krystof Maixner, Hoshang Fahim. …

Paris police seal off Seine River ahead of Olympics

PARIS — A special kind of iron curtain came down across central Paris on Thursday, with the beginning of an Olympic anti-terrorism perimeter along the banks of the River Seine sealing off a kilometers-long area to Parisians and tourists who hadn’t applied in advance for a pass.  The words on many lips were “QR code,” the pass that grants access beyond snaking metal barriers that delineate the security zone set up to protect the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony on July 26.  “I didn’t know it started today,” said Emmanuelle Witt, a 35-year-old communications freelancer who was stopped by police near the Alma bridge while biking across town. She desperately went on her phone to fill out the online form to get her QR code, unaware that the vetting process could take several days.  Those with the precious code — either on their phones or printed out on pieces of paper — passed smoothly through police checkpoints at gaps in the barriers taller than most people.  Those without got mostly turned away — with no amount of grumbling and cajoling making officers budge.  “That’s too much, that’s over the top, that whole thing is a pain,” grumbled Nassim Bennamou, a delivery man who was denied access to the street leading to Notre Dame Cathedral on his scooter.  “Even the GPS is confused, I have no idea how I’m going to work today,” he added.  While authorities announced the code system last year and have been meeting with local residents for months to explain the restrictions, not everyone was aware. Officers patiently explained to visitors without the pass how to reach iconic Paris monuments without going through the restricted zone.  “We had no idea we needed a QR code,” said Takao Sakamoto, 55, who was denied access to the Eiffel Tower near the Bir Hakeim Metro station. Visiting from Japan with his wife, he took a photo of the tower from a distance, behind fences and police cars. “That will do,” Sakamoto remarked with despair.  On the other hand, visitors who were lucky enough to come across officers who leniently let them pass without QR codes and others who’d equipped themselves with them were treated to the sight of near-empty riverside boulevards that, in normal times, heave with traffic.  “There’s no one around!” sang a happy cyclist on a street he had largely to himself. With police seemingly everywhere, another man walking past … “Paris police seal off Seine River ahead of Olympics”

Leader of Belarus marks 30 years in power after crushing dissent

TALLINN, Estonia — For three decades, European leaders have come and gone by the dozens, but Alexander Lukashenko remains in absolute control of Belarus. His longevity is due to a mixture of harshly silencing all dissent, reverting to Soviet-style economic controls and methods and cozying up to Russia, even as he sometimes flirted with the West. Lukashenko, 69, was dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” early in his tenure, and he has lived up to that nickname. On Saturday, he marks 30 years in power — one of the world’s longest-serving and most ruthless leaders. As head of the country sandwiched between Russia, Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, Lukashenko was elected to his sixth term in office in 2020 in balloting widely seen at home and abroad as rigged. Months of mass protests that followed were harshly suppressed in a violent crackdown that sent tens of thousands to jail amid allegations of beatings and torture. Many political opponents remain imprisoned or have fled the nation of 9.5 million. But the strongman shrugged off Western sanctions and isolation that followed, and now he says he will run for a seventh five-year term next year. Lukashenko owes his political longevity to a mixture of guile, brutality and staunch political and economic support from his main ally, Russia. Most recently, in 2022 he allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine and later agreed to host some of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons. “Lukashenko has turned Belarus into a fragment of the USSR, dangerous not only for its own citizens but also threatening its Western neighbors with nuclear weapons,” said independent political analyst Valery Karbalevich. He described the Belarusian leader as “one of the most experienced post-Soviet politicians, who has learned to play both on the Kremlin’s mood and the fears of his own people.”  In power since 1994 When the former state farm director was first elected in July 1994 just 2½ years after Belarus gained independence following the USSR’s collapse, he pledged to fight corruption and boost living standards that had plunged amid chaotic free-market reforms. An admirer of the Soviet Union, Lukashenko pushed soon after his election for a referendum that abandoned the country’s new red-and-white national flag in favor of one similar to what Belarus had used as a Soviet republic. He also quickly bolstered ties with Russia and pushed for forming a new union state in the apparent … “Leader of Belarus marks 30 years in power after crushing dissent”